Make do and mend – Mandy Kinnell
April 27, 2020
Panic buying does happen from time-to-time on the Isle of Man – when the boat is cancelled due to
bad weather the shelves suddenly empty as we batten down the hatches. However, with the advent
of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing panic buying happening regularly and continually. Such
an interesting phenomenon but it has caused problems for the most vulnerable in our society, so
why, with this knowledge, do we still do it?
As humans we are hard-wired to attend to our most basic needs first – air to breathe, food and
water to sustain us and shelter so that we can feel safe. Fortunately, the majority of people on the
Island, and I know there are exceptions, are able to fulfil these needs by working and earning to be
able to keep the cupboards and the fridge stocked. However, as Coronavirus crept across the globe,
getting ever closer to our little patch, so tensions, fears and anxieties started to build. At last it hit
and so we are finding ourselves living through unprecedented times. Where suddenly for the
majority, our reliance on our neighbouring islands and countries comes into sharp focus. What if the
boat stops coming? What happens if we can no longer get enough supplies through to fill the
supermarkets? And so panic buying begins. Suddenly there is talk of shortages of toilet roll, of all
things. Tinned foods are not as readily available and so we worry that there will start to be a scarcity
of other goods too.
Totally irrational, isn’t it? After all, we are evolved humans with the ability to reason and act
sensibly. The boat is still coming. Our supermarket shelves are being re-stocked more regularly than
ever before. So, why in the face of all evidence to the contrary do we still shop like there’s no
It all boils down to that hard-wiring. We are built to sense and to be vigilant for threats and this is
what keeps us alive and has meant the survival of our species for the last 300,000 years or so.
Coronavirus certainly represents a real and present threat to our health, and with the measures our
government is taking, also to our way of life. Our freedoms and the things that we have taken for
granted for the duration of our lives have suddenly and swiftly altered in a radical way. Our brains
are going into over-drive to try to make sense of this threat, at the most fundamental level the
threat to our lives and our health, to our loved ones, to our income and finances, perhaps even to
our homes. These threats are coming thick and fast at us, with barely a moment to take a breath
and really and truly appreciate what it means for us. As our instincts take hold, we scrabble to
regain some sense of control, to ensure that we are fed and we have sufficient supplies, with the
little alarm going off in our brains that is sensing threat, and this tells us that we need to prepare,
not just for today, but for tomorrow and the day after that. Will the boat still be coming next week,
next month? Our politicians assure us that it will, but that little alarm is still going off. How do they
know? None of us has been through this before.
Certainly no-one from my generation. There are some in our community who have experienced a
similarly threatening time. During World War II there was a clear threat to life from the enemy and
rationing and scarcity of produce. Over time they developed a ‘make do and mend’ mentality. They
adapted. They survived and they got through. I will acknowledge that there were differences, but I
find it reassuring that throughout history humans have adapted and survived and continued to
thrive. During the Second World War there was a spirit and a camaraderie and a sense of everyone
being in this together that the generation talk about. Personal needs, fears and wants were put
aside to a certain degree. People looked to the greater good and that’s what will get us through too.
We will overcome and there will be a boat in the morning.
So, next time you have the urge to buy an extra pack of toilet roll or fill your shopping trolley with
tins of goods that you may never use, stop. Take a breath, pause for a moment, engage your
rational brain and tell your instincts to calm down. Consider whether you really need that extra tin
of beans, or would a vulnerable or elderly person, or an NHS or key worker have a greater need?